Q. Why do you spend so much of your time visiting schools and classrooms?
A. The most important work in our district occurs in our more than 400 classrooms. My target of being in every school every week is my way of emphasizing and supporting the places where most of our learning happens. By visiting classrooms regularly, I get to see students learning; I get a real world / real time experience of how that is going for them. I really am primarily watching the students, not the teachers. That said, I often can’t help but notice many of the creative and effective approaches that I see teachers deploying in their rooms. Of course, I don’t just visit classrooms. I also often will chat with administrators or other support staff, respond to spontaneous issues brought to me by folks who see me in the halls, and I sometimes have even eaten in the cafeteria.
Q. What should I do when you visit my classroom?
A. I certainly don’t want to interrupt instruction, so it is not necessary for you to do anything. That said, it is YOUR classroom; I am just another visitor. If you want to stop to introduce me or explain to me what you are doing, you can certainly choose to do that. I respect all the choices you make, knowing that I am walking into a room in the middle of whatever your current plan may be. My impression is that our youngest students still don’t always know who I am, while many of our older children already do know who I am.
Q. Why was your time in my classroom so brief?
A. Most of my visits last anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. I don’t need to be there very long to get the sense of what the students are doing. Sometimes I get hooked by what’s going on, and I choose to stay longer, but that has been the exception, rather than the rule. Often, when you have the students working on something, I will float about the classroom to look at their work, ask them questions, and will even offer to help out, if I can. If you ever see me trying to help a student and you don’t want that to happen, please do say something to me. Treat me like any other colleague who happened to drop by.
Q. What is in the binder that you carry around and write in?
A. The binder is my personal accountability system. I have a separate page for the four elementary schools and another for the three secondary schools that each cover a two-week period. For whichever school I am visiting, I record the date, room number, teacher’s name, subject/topic/process that the kids are learning, and the amount of time I was in the room. Then I cross that classroom off my list for that school so that next time I’m sure to visit a different room.
Q. What happens when I’m not there, and there is a substitute in the room?
A. I do note that it was a substitute on my log, when that is clear to me. Since I still don’t yet know all of our staff, sometimes I don’t realize there is a sub in the room. When I know there is sub, I don’t cross that classroom off my list, so there is a good likelihood that I will swing back by on another occasion.